September 14, 2011

The Allure of Heritage

Credit: Meredith Mullins
The Journées du Patrimoine, coming up this weekend (September 17&18), offers a unique opportunity to feel a part of French history and culture (whether you were born in France or are connected to French heritage by other roots).

We are able, for two proud days each September, to see historic and elegant places, some of which are not usually open to the public. Hundreds of government buildings, private residences, and hôtel particuliers are accessible. The journées du patrimoine interactive website is helpful to plan your journey and check on the day(s) and hours of opening. You can also pick up a schedule at the Ministry of Culture in the Palais Royal just before the weekend.

Lee Hubert, WICE’s expert guide for Paris by Arrondissement walks, has years of Patrimoine experience. Her favorites include:

Hôtel de Toulouse (Banque de France)
2, rue Radziwill; 1st
(Offers the lovely 18th century Galérie dorée, not usually open to the public)

Hôtel de Matignon (Prime Minister’s Residence)
57 rue de Varenne; 7th

Also on the rue de Varenne … the Hôtel de la Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville (Ambassade d’Italie)

Hôtel de Noirmoutier (Prefecture de Paris)
138 rue de Grenelle; 7th
(Includes beautiful carvings inspired by the Fables de la Fontaine)

The rue de Grenelle is a treasure trove, with lots of other embassies (and gardens), including:
Hôtel Chanac de Pompadour (Ambassade de Suisse)
Hôtel d’Avaray (Dutch Ambassador Residence)
Hôtel d’Estrées (Russian Ambassador Residence)
Hôtel de Breteuil (Ambassade d’Irlande)
2, rue Rude; 16th

Other longtime favorites (these venues are often crowded, so go early):

Hotel de Ville 3 rue Lobau; 4th
The library and grand ballrooms are spectacular.

Hotel de Lauzun 17 quai d’Anjou; 4th
The carved, mirrored, painted, and gilded interior inspired many of its residents, including Gautier and Baudelaire (who wrote much of Fleurs du Mal here and formed his famous hashish club to experiment with altered states).

Observatoire de Paris 61, avenue de la Observatoire; 14th

Institut de France 23 quai Conti; 6th

Sénat 15, rue de Vaugirard; 6th

Hôtel d’Evreux (Palais de l’Elysée) Avenue Gabriel; 8th

To continue your historic and cultural wanderings after the weekend, join Lee Hubert for her upcoming tour of the 2nd arrondissement on September 27. To add a camera to those wanderings, join Meredith Mullins for the Exploring Paris through the Lens course, beginning September 26.